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Francisco Sagasti the third President
of Peru in the past week

AFP

Centrist parliamentarian Francisco Sagasti was elected on Monday by Congress as the new president of Peru

- Must complete the current term of government, which ends on July 28, 2021
- Two dead in protests over weekend triggered Merino resignation

By John Quigley/Bloomberg

LIMA
Petroleumworld 11 17 2020S

Peru's Francisco Sagasti was elected head of congress and in turn will become interim president in a country that's been wracked by political volatility over the past week.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly backed Sagasti with 97 votes in favor and 26 against. He is set to be sworn in as next head of state later Monday afternoon in Lima and tasked with filling a power vacuum ahead of presidential elections in April.

Sagasti's predecessor, Manuel Merino, assumed the presidency last week following the surprise impeachment of Martin Vizcarra, just five months before the country's next election. Merino quit earlier Sunday after demonstrators flooded the streets of Lima, where two people were shot dead.

Merino, his cabinet chief and interior minister are now under investigation by the office of the attorney general for the two deaths and abuse of authority.

Angela Ponce/Bloomberg
Demonstrators gather during a protest at San Martin square in Lima, Peru, on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Peruvians have been protesting for days amid growing public indignation over the ouster of President Martin Vizcarra by the opposition in congress.

Merino, who headed the congress, pushed for the impeachment of Vizcarra, one of the most popular politicians in the country, in what some saw as a power grab.

Sagasti's Purple Party was the only one in congress to have voted squarely against Vizcarra's ouster.

Sagasti is a former head of strategic planning at the World Bank and a former adviser to the United Nations on science and technology. He's seen as a conciliatory figure in a fractured congress, where the government of Vizcarra had no representatives.

He's opposed congressional economic proposals considered dangerous by the government, such as a large cash payout from the state retirement fund.

After slumping to a record low on Monday, Peru's currency and other assets will respond positively to Sagasti's appointment, according to David Tuesta, who served as the nation's finance minister in 2018.

“He was the best choice from this very precarious Congress,” Tuesta said. Still, “market volatility will remain until the cabinet is known.”

— With assistance by Andrew Rosati, and Ben Bartenstein

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